The Opioid Crisis, Explained, Shows A Harsh Truth

The Opioid Crisis, Explained, Shows A Harsh Truth

Opioid addiction doesn't discriminate, it will take over any person.

The abuse of prescription pain relievers and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. Every day more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Overdose deaths have now surpassed motor vehicle accidents, guns and HIV in the national death rate.

A cause of the opioid crisis is the doctor to patient access to these drugs. The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by doctors increased from 112 million in 1992 to a peak of 282 million in 2012. The increase in opioid prescriptions was fueled by a multi-faceted campaign underwritten by pharmaceutical companies.

The campaign that started, basically the ultimate opioid takeover, provided information that included patient history and doctoral education courses that all leaned in favor of opioids becoming more commonplace as a rising answer to pain relievers. Originally, opioids were only favored in use of postoperative and end-of-life pain; now, it serves to a wider group catering to everyday situations for people such as fibromyalgia and lower back pain.

The pharmaceutical industry began to notice the highly influential articles easing into opioids becoming more common as typical solutions for any chronic pain. That’s when drugs like OxyContin were being aggressively marketed to doctors everywhere.

Another cause of the opioid crisis is the opposite end of the doctor-patient accessibility to the pain relievers. 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. Approximately 52 million people have used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes at least once.

Since 1999, the number of deaths from overdosing on opioids in one year has quadrupled from 4,000 to 62,000 by 2016. In terms of overall misuse, opioids account for a greater amount of the prescription drug abuse problem.

These drugs are popular, even among those who haven’t been prescribed any medication before. What may be hard to realize is that the possibility of addiction can affect any person, even if you’re taking the correct dosage.

The purpose of the medication is to relieve pain, and eventually, it can become necessary for someone to get out of bed each day. Opioids are even popular as recreational-use drugs. The purpose of a person taking the medication non-medically is to be in a euphoric state-of-mind, a high feeling.

The overall effect of the opioid crisis is the highest national death rate of people overdosing on opioids. Since 1999, the annual death rate for opioid overdose has quadrupled in numbers. In 2016, more than 289 million prescriptions were written for opioid drugs.

In October of 2016, President Trump announced that because of the epidemic, we are officially in a state of emergency. There has been an increase of neonatal abstinence syndrome in newborns, and doing these drugs also puts anyone at high risk for HIV or Hep C. Drug overdoses has also become the leading cause of death for people under 50 as well.

Considering these numbers are the highest they’ve ever been, there’s still the after consequences, there’s still the fact that these people were people. Thousands of children are left in foster care because of the parents overdosing.

These people that are essentially addicted steal, lie and become different people, all under the name of the addiction. And at some points, these people are too far gone to even consider quitting cold turkey because if they do, they’re at higher risk for HIV and accidental overdose.

One thing that’s easy to grasp is that the opioid epidemic seems to be one big well-oiled machine. It’s all basic economics of supply-and-demand. The drug became more popular and essentially was needed more and more every day by regular people. The pharmaceutical industry had its plan to take over and all it took was wooing over the journalists and the doctors.

Because even though the numbers prove that more people may not be in pain since the 90’s, there have still been more prescriptions written. Now, that’s easy to place the blame on the fact that doctors don’t want to see their patients suffering, and considering we’re in the 21st century, it’s easier to prescribe the right medication for any pain.

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Marijuana In The Real-World

Understanding myths and fact.

Our world is a gray area. Marijuana is legal in some states but federally is illegal. This gray area can confuse the public. Uninformed adults look at it like cocaine or acid but that is because they do not know about weed. It is categorized as a drug and that scares people, but drugs do have their place in the world. Not only are they prevalent medicinally, drugs are in daily life. Just like drugs such as Tylenol and caffeine, the drug is positive if the person is acting responsibly.

Marijuana is not a dangerous drug. Overdosing is extremely difficult on this drug, the drug itself is not addictive, and studies have found that pot is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. Not to mention how dangerous the drug is when compared to drugs like ecstasy.

Keeping the drug away from children is a decent idea in retrospect but the number of teenagers who smoke weed is not affected by the legality issues in that state. Prohibition didn’t work again. Teens realize that marijuana isn’t what it was always made out to be.

One reason the drug is shielded from adolescents is that weed is believed to lead to a loss of motivation and apathy. Studies were done, where marijuana was determined not to be connected to a lack of motivation. Just like anything though, if you smoke too much weed or anything, your abilities and functions are lowered.

Marijuana also mythically causes memory loss. Though this can be true in terms of short-term memory, the person must be high first. They may have troubles learning new things while high but they are able to remember what they knew before smoking weed.

The belief that marijuana causes lung cancer has been debunked as in 2006 when UCLA was trying to prove the drugs affects lung cancer. However, this study among others found that marijuana helps inhibit the growth of cancer.

There are two types of marijuana, Indica and Sativa. The different strands make you feel different ways that can benefit your mental health. For example, someone suffering from insomnia might be interested in looking into a strand of Indica. Some pot is good to calm nerves, anxiety, or even settle negative thoughts.

Weed is not worse than alcohol or cigarettes, studies have shown that perhaps it's better than other poisons. Through understanding and careful usage of the drug, our country and world would benefit from the utilization of marijuana.

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Are Magic Mushrooms The Key To Understanding The Brain?

An Academic Perspective

Mushrooms that, when ingested, induce “mind-manifesting” effects are categorized as psychedelic. They are colloquially referred to as “Magic Mushrooms." The main psychoactive component of these fungi is psilocybin. Here, the term psychedelic is describing the compound’s ability to manifest underlying aspects of the mind; it’s etymology deriving from the Greek words psychē and dclôsē, meaning “mind” or “soul” and “to manifest,” respectively. Western countries first became aware of the “magic mushroom” in the first half of the 20th century when a western traveler came across one in Central America. Psychedelics became popular with the generation of Americans who were disillusioned with government, as the Vietnam War broadcasted on television and had forced conscription. The government targeted anti-war protesters, often identified as hippies through the illegalization of psychedelic drugs. As with many illegal substances, the “magic mushroom” continues to be abused for recreational purposes. Non-western nations, specifically those indigenous to the Americas, have an ancient history with psilocybin, which was often used in sacred ceremonies, as well as for healing purposes. Whilst it is often implied that western medicine is more legitimate, that narrative is founded in cultural biases held by the people who invaded and settled on this land. Nevertheless, this paper focuses on current western research into psilocybin, as interest in the therapeutic aspects of psychedelics have had a resurgence in these countries. It induces a similar state to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Unlike experiments performed during REM, however, those performed under psychedelic influence can be mechanistically and scientifically controlled. Inspired by the mysteries of the brain, this article explores the possibility that psilocybin may be the catalyst for marrying analysis of the brain on the cellular level and on the metacognitive, conscious one. It is the first part in a series of academic articles on the topic.

Because psilocybin is structurally similar to the neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin), it produces psychedelic effects by binding to 5-HT2A receptors. One study suggested that 5-HT2A receptors may live in the plasma membrane of pyramidal cells that project onto interneurons, possibly contributing to the decrease in neural activity associated with higher level thought. A study done in people found a statistically significant increase in the likelihood of layer 5 pyramidal neurons firing after consumption of magic mushrooms. Nevertheless, the former study disagrees on how, proposing that excitation of 5-HT2A receptors has an inverse relationship with that of pyramidal cells. It is notable that 5-HT2A receptors are most densely expressed on pyramidal neurons, specifically in the neural regions associated with cognition and perception, as opposed to ones associated with more basic functions, such as the motor cortex. Whilst the underlying mechanisms of psychedelic effects at the receptor level aren’t clear, the impact on neurobiological mechanisms, believed to be involved in higher-level thinking, have more of a consensus across studies.

One study used arterial spin labeling fMRI and blood-oxygen level-dependent fMRI imaging techniques to look at the changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) as it correlates to the specific regions of interest in the brain over time, as well as to the subjective intensity of the effects of the psilocybin administered. Associating CBF with neural activity, they found that decreases in CBF were localized to the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and the thalamus.

All of the aforementioned function as important connector hubs in the brain, associated with high level cognitive functions. Specifically, the PCC is a vital component of the default mode network (DMN), a system of highly correlate brain regions critical for cognition and the perception of self; the ACC is involved in executive function, connecting the emotion-linked limbic system and cognition-linked prefrontal cortex; the mPFC functions in higher order memory and decision-making processes; and the thalamus relays sensory signals to the cerebral cortex and regulates consciousness. The statistically significant correlation between these decreases and perceived potency of psilocybin, as well as the significantly decreased positive coupling of the PCC and the mPFC suggest that classic psychedelics may function by fracturing brain networks to alter a person’s state of waking consciousness.

Consistently receiving greater CBF and energy than all other regions of the brain, the default mode network (DMN) has a functional centrality as it integrates and routes information from different brain networks, excluding sensory. The DMN, in fact, may be the highest level of functional hierarchy, engaging in metacognition that encompasses: self-reflection, theory-of-mind, and mental time-travel. This metacognition, the discernment and/or control of one’s own thoughts and behaviors, is commonly only attributed to humans, and may be thought of as “self” or as “ego” in Freudian terminology. A recent study used fMRI to investigate the medial temporal lobe (MTL), including the hippocampus, which is involved in the formation of long-term memory, and its interaction with the DMN. Functional coupling between the MTL and DMN decreased post-psilocybin delivery into the bloodstream, further supporting the hypothesis that the psychedelic state is a regression from executive control. Studies on meditative states, long thought to be similar to psychedelic ones, have found the same phenomenon.

This desynchronization of cortical activity can be observed via the modulation of alpha oscillations, deduced to be a result of psilocybin-excited 5-HT2A receptors. Related to temporal framing of perception, alpha oscillations were found to regulate both cortical excitation and N170 visual potentials that appear connected to visual hallucinations. The decreased alpha power values post-psilocybin absorption in the body demonstrated a statistically significant relationship with both general increased excitability in the absence of stimuli, as well as the formation of hallucinations, which is consistent with known psychedelic effects. The latter is likely because psilocybin attenuates N170 potentials, which help translate natural images into clear and meaningful structures. Moreover, another study found that this decrease in alpha power positively correlated with subjective ratings on both the disintegration of “self” and the “supernatural” quality of the experience. The presented pharmacophysiological mechanism underlying these results submit that oscillatory rhythms constrain spontaneous firing of individual pyramidal cells, upholding structure to brain activity and supporting the theory of “self-organized criticality.”

The entropic theory of consciousness, known as the entropic brain hypothesis, relates system entropy in the brain with “self-organized criticality.” Entropy refers to system disorder. “Self-organized criticality” refers to a complex system (the brain), in which the properties as a whole are not those expressed at the level of an individual unit (neuron). The entropic brain hypothesis purports that a mature sense of self-identity or personality, related to metacognition, suppresses entropy in the brain so that humans can have more advantageous control over the natural world. We'll talk more about the entropic theory of consciousness in the second part to this article.

Share if you've learned something new! I've put references below, if you'd like a more thorough understanding.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to condone the use of illegal substances, or replace individual research. The author takes no responsibility for the actions of readers.


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  2. Carhart-Harris, R. L., Erritzoe, D., Williams, T., Stone, J. M., Reed, L. J., Colasanti, A., et al. (2012a). Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109, 2138–2143. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1119598109
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